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June 15, 2007

Skill biased technological change too biasey these days

Back when me and my friends were but wee lads, during the good ol' Reagan years, middle class parents who had learned to accept being beaten by the man counseled their kids to skill up. "You're not going to be the bloke [uhh, I grew up in England??] that builds the widgets for the house, you're going to have to go high end, get some sweet design skills, and make the whole house."

If we needed any further evidence that this line of argument was but wishful thinking, that nothing is impossible in the land of magic wishes and corporate-run economies, that houses can float across borders, that the real issue is about POWER (i.e. not accepting the beat down), here yinz go:

FOUR years ago Henry Scott, a media consultant living in Manhattan, hired Sergio Guardia to design a weekend house on a wooded site in Kerhonkson, N.Y. Mr. Guardia, an architect who was born in Bolivia and trained at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, came up with plans for a futuristic house set on thick steel beams cantilevered over a hillside.

The house, which was meant to feel like a capsule suspended in the woods, was perfect for the North Carolina-born Mr. Scott, who said he loves nature — when it’s behind glass. Because of allergies, he said, “I didn’t want to have a lawn to mow or bushes to prune.”

Mr. Scott responded enthusiastically to Mr. Guardia’s vision. But when they priced the house, he said, “there was no way I could afford it.” The steel supports (which ended up costing $47,000) were budget-busters, but they were essential to the design.

So Mr. Guardia, of the Manhattan firm of Guardia Architects, suggested having the wood parts of the house — the floors, doors, window frames and cabinetry — made in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where his sister-in-law, Cecilia López, is an architect, and where labor costs are much lower than in the United States.

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